Conventional wisdom for people heading off to university is usually studying hard and staying focused. However, the truth of the matter is that a university degree is not a guarantee of a lucrative career. Far from it, it is more a guarantee of student debt.

That in no way should dissuade you from pursuing a degree. Statistically speaking, you are likely to earn more with a degree in the long run. And there are many careers you cannot even enter without a degree.

One way to put yourself ahead of the competition, though, is to have a good side hustle while you pursue your studies. The advantages are many-fold, including the following:

Experience Trumps Book Knowledge

A common observation from people in charge of hiring in large companies is that a university degree is mainly essential in that it shows a candidate is intelligent, can study and learn, and can stick with something difficult until completion.

However, if everyone applying for a job has a degree, an employer’s next line of inquiry will be regarding experience. The simple truth is that university is great for textbook knowledge but notoriously falls short in regard to real-life experience needed to perform a job.

Having experience with a side-hustle will demonstrate real-world business acumen. It shows that you have experience dealing with customers, managing their expectations, and have been personally responsible for the successful delivery of a product or service.

Take Risks While You’re Young

Once you are out of university and start piling on adult obligations (work, bills, family, etc.), you will find you have far fewer opportunities to take risks. That is simply the nature of life. So, seize the opportunity while you are young, and life’s demands are comparatively few to take a chance on business ventures you’d like to try.

You may find as you grow older that you simply cannot afford the time or financial uncertainty to do so later.

Learn a Technical Skill

There was a time when you could go to university, find a corporate job, and be assured of your future all the way through retirement. Such is simply not true anymore. Therefore, the more skills you have in your toolbox, the better.

That way, if layoffs happen, or your job becomes automated or outsourced, you’ll have fallback skills. Consider technical skills which aren’t likely to disappear. For instance, a specialised skill in something like how to repair mobile phones, is with you forever once you’ve learned it and will always be there as a fall back should something unforeseen happen.

Differentiate Yourself When You Graduate

With higher education becoming more common and globalisation shaking up white-collar job fields, it is crucial to differentiate yourself in an increasingly competitive market.

Having honed additional skills can prove to be an asset when interviewing for your first job. It may be that those skills you learned for your side-hustle allow you to excel as a candidate beyond others interviewing for your desired position.

Consider if you have learned technical skills, and you are seeking a junior management job over people in the same field. It is obviously advantageous to have management that “speaks the language” of the technical employees. Understanding your employees’ requirements and concerns will make you far more effective at managing them, and they’ll be more willing to work with a manager who understands what they do.

Learn Soft Skills

The requirements of any job are more than what might be listed on the job description. Consider stepping into management. Sure, you will need to understand time-management, perhaps accounting, and day-to-day management of projects.

You’ll also need the skills required for managing people effectively. That means conflict resolution, empathy, negotiation, and a slew of other skills commonly referred to as soft skills. Running a side-hustle is an excellent way to sharpen these soft skills, as well as prove to a potential employer you’ve had time to develop them.

Reduce Student Debt

On a practical level, university can be expensive. Even if tuition is paid, you still need to live and eat. Unless you have lucked into a situation that covers everything, there are still bills to pay. A side hustle is an excellent way to keep some income coming in to reduce the amount of borrowing you’ll have to do.

Even if you can afford to cover all expenses, you could be saving from that side hustle to build a nest egg for your first home or moving to wherever your dream job will be. There is really no down-side to building up savings in the bank.

Expand Your Career Options

You may find, as you finish university, that the side hustle you started is more lucrative than the job you originally intended to take. It’s not common, but it does happen.

Even if it isn’t necessarily more lucrative, self-employment is attractive to many people. Regardless, there is nothing to lose with having more options. Perhaps you can more boldly negotiate your salary if you know you don’t need a job and do just fine on your own.

So Keep Your Options Open and Empower Yourself

Simply put, a side hustle can only offer you options and provide real-world experience that can be a game-changer in a tight market. So, stay focused on your studies, but open to opportunities to enhance your skills and put some extra money in your pocket.

Felix Yim is the founder of Society of Speed, an automotive journal covering the unique lifestyle of supercar owners. Alongside automotive journalism, Felix recently graduated from university with a finance degree and enjoys helping students and other young founders grow their projects.

Side hustle stock photo by Iryna Imago/Shutterstock